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With apologies to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

Parkview Health (PH) recently announced 850 open jobs and the addition of 300 jobs and made an investment in all-expenses-paid “magnet hospital” training for 150 nurses. Meanwhile, to the south, Lutheran Health Network (LHN) seems to be freezing full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs. We’re told that LHN CEO Mike Poore canceled leadership meetings through the end of the year, presumably to reduce FTE time. Previously, we’ve had reports of other head-scratching savings–fewer styrofoam cups, turning off lights, closing the cafeteria at night–as well as more severe staff cutbacks, even in contract hires.

What does this mean?
– Could Parkview Health be ramping up in preparation for a CHS bankruptcy? Already PH Randalia has swelled its bed count from a planned 50 beds to about 140. And PH Randalia is said to be the busiest ER in Fort Wayne–all of this at a facility once scheduled for closure.

– Might this be a marshaling of forces ahead of IU Health’s rumored entrance into the market, as we reported yesterday by WPTA (http://www.wpta21.com/…/sources-iu-health-coming-to-fort-wa…)? PH is investing in both growth and quality. That sets the bar for a new entrant well above that of LHN where survival seems to be the target.
– Dickens used the guillotine as a symbol of impersonal, institutionalized killing, the worst of times, the age of foolishness. The CHS cutting of employees is corporate foolishness in our view–done from afar but harshly personal and perhaps lethal to LHN. Everybody knows that LHN profits allow for far better support.
– We expect that both Parkview and IU Health or another entrant will invest in growth and quality. For now, with falling earnings and crushing debt, it is for CHS and LHN the “epoch of incredulity.”